I cried for days after the class parent made the off-the-cuff remark that she thought I was Baxter’s grandma – heck I was only 49. I hadn’t planned on that when I concocted the plan to wait until the last moment to have a baby. It got worse when Clementina, the “it” girl, made the comment, “Harry’s mum’s really old,” as I helped out with kindergarten. I decided there and then to stop volunteering at school.
On reflection, I guess I didn’t think I looked old. The reality is my looks had just not survived three years of relentless night feeds and two years of crippling peri-menopausal endometrial hyperplasia.
So, as I sit here at 52 with a nine-year-old son, here are my reflections on “older parenting”.
Listen: Holly, Mia and Jessie discuss babies in your 40s.
It is immensely satisfying to have been able to have it all – a career without the ever present juggling act of guilt (the constant battle for family/work balance), and time instead to forge a platinum bond with hubby all before screaming in with a “spontaneous conception” at 43. In fact, the benefits of quadragenarian mothering abound. A slightly different shade of parent perhaps than the 20 or 30 year old version of self. A well-rounded being shaped from decades of life’s lessons. It is indeed a wise warrior that emerges, well prepared for the parenting battle that lies ahead. Arguably a better parent – an earth mother who resides in the lofty heights of parenting nirvana far beyond the reaches of the rat race and its related materialism.
Where the younger you would not have thought much beyond the birthing plan and the school deposits, the mid-40s model thinks parenting plan. Daily stimulating experiences rich in learning and socialisation. Pre-school years filled with blissful excursions to parks, libraries, museums, fetes and fairs.
This is however no one way street – the benefits of this interaction flow both ways. The older parent is able to splash in the fountain of youth once more as she hurtles towards middle age. A reconnection with nature is discovered as the joys of childhood are revisited and reviewed through the rose coloured spectacles of the growing lifeforce. All the pleasures of life, both simple and elaborate, are replayed through the eyes of the child – books, cartoons, movies, ballets, operas, cycling, skiing, travel and so much more.
However, the first cracks in this wondrous bubble begin to emerge with the collision of primary school and quinquagenarian parenting. Ageism arrives. It hurts. You’re playing in the wrong sandpit – the average age of the other mums is 35, nevermind the teachers – and it’s glaringly obvious to your child that you are older. Thankfully though parental embarrassment exists mainly in the world of teenagers.
To conclude, there are pitfalls in parenting a nine-year-old at 52 but, so far, these are of a superficial nature, a shallow reflection of my own vanity. So, if you ask me has this journey of vintage parenting been successful, I’d have to say, “hell, yes!”